Thursday, March 5, 2009

How to Make Hoppin' John

Photo by Flickr user peppergrasss

Hoppin' John is one of those things I guess I grew up eating, but never knew the actual name of. To me, it was just peas and rice, eaten throughout the year but especially on New Year's Day, when it's believed that eating black-eyed peas brings luck for the coming year). There are as many variations on this dish--which utilizes cheap ingredients to delicious, filling effect--as there are cooks in the South, but this is how I do it.

First, soak

One cup dried black-eyed peas

in water to cover for a few hours.

When the peas have almost absorbed the water, heat

2 Tablespoons olive or corn oil

in a large pot over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add

One smoked ham hock (you can use a hog jowl if you can't find a hock, but it'll take longer to soften; or you can slice four ounces of slab bacon into lardons and fry those--just make sure to drain most of the oil before going to the next step)

and cook until browned, turning occasionally.


One yellow onion, chopped
Two to four cloves garlic, chopped

lower heat, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened.


Small hot red chiles or red pepper flakes to taste
Two sprigs fresh thyme
One bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
(it's best to undersalt at this point, since you'll be adding stock)

and stir.


One 14.5-ounce can diced organic tomatoes
6 cups stock
(preferably homemade, low-sodium pork stock, although chicken stock or even water will do)
The soaked peas

and bring to a low boil. Lower the heat, partially cover, and cook until the peas are almost tender. Add a cup of long-grain white rice (more to taste) and cook until the rice is done, adding more water or stock if the bottom of the pan gets too dry. Adjust seasoning and serve with lots and lots of hot sauce.

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